WASHINGTON -- Each year around this time, millions of would-be immigrants to the United States from around the world hold their breath. Early May is when the U.S. State Department releases its shortlist of applicants to the annual green-card lottery. About half of them -- 55,000 people -- will receive permanent-residence visas, the tickets to eventual citizenship.
Starting just over two decades ago, tens of thousands of citizens started leaving Mongolia amid a wrenching economic transition from a planned-economy to a free market. Now, with the Mongolian economy poised to boom, many émigrés are wrestling with a dilemma – whether or not to abandon the new country for the old?
During the summer, Rakhmat Kobilov rises at 4 am, eats breakfast, and drives 45 miles to the farm where he cultivates cucumbers, watermelon, and a fragrant variety of cantaloupe indigenous to Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley.
When 21-year-old Myrza and his new bride received visas to travel to the United States in 2008, his relatives beamed. Myrza had just finished his junior year at the Kyrgyz National Law Academy, and he and his wife, Aiperi, had secured spots in a coveted State Department-sponsored program.